A key memo posted online by a firm associated with pro-Ron DeSantis super political action committee Never Back Down outlined strategies for the Florida governor’s first presidential primary debate.
The documents, first reported by the New York Times, urged DeSantis “to take a sledgehammer” to Vivek Ramaswamy, the Republican entrepreneur who has slowly been gaining in the polls.
Dub the primary opponent “Fake Vivek” or “Vivek the Fake,” the memo advised.
Ramaswamy responded to the report Thursday afternoon, who called it “another boring, establishment attack from Super PAC-creation ‘Robot Ron’ who is literally taking lame, pre-programmed attack lines against me for next week’s debate.”
The strategy documents indicate that DeSantis’ campaign may view Ramaswamy as his biggest threat at the Aug. 23 debate, given that former President Donald Trump is not expected to participate.
Ramaswamy, a political newcomer, has recently been closing the gap between him and DeSantis.
A RealClearPolitics polling average between July 23-Aug. 15 shows Ramaswamy in third place with 6.7%, about eight points behind DeSantis. That’s a 4.3-point increase for Ramaswamy in the last two months, compared to a 5.4-point decrease for DeSantis.
And Ramaswamy is polling ahead of former Vice President Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Chris Christie—all of whom had bigger name recognition coming into the race than Ramaswamy.
While the debate memo also encouraged DeSantis to defend Trump in absentia from attacks wielded by Christie, Trump has celebrated DeSantis’ drop in polls, referencing a recent survey by RMG Research. The polling firm holds a B- rating from FiveThirtyEight.
“It’s over for Ron DeSanctimonious, now in 3rd place. Ramaswamy now in 2nd,” Trump wrote on Truth Social Wednesday. “RMG Research. Go home to Florida, Ron, and work on Insurance costs, the highest in the Nation!”